(Bloomberg) -- Recurring applications for US unemployment benefits rose to the highest since early February, suggesting that Americans who are losing their job are having more trouble finding a new one as the labor market shows tentative signs of cooling.

Continuing claims, which include people who have already received unemployment benefits for a week or more, climbed by 62,000 to 1.7 million in the week ended Nov. 26, Labor Department data showed Thursday.

Initial unemployment claims increased by 4,000 to 230,000 in the week ended Dec. 3. The figure was in line with the median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists.

The data can be choppy from week to week, especially around the holidays. The four-week moving average, which smooths out such volatility, ticked up to 230,000.

Economists have been watching continuing claims more closely in recent weeks as they serve as an indicator of how hard it is for people to find work after losing their job. They’ve also been known to hint at upcoming recessions. Although the gauge has been generally rising for the last two months, it’s still near historic lows.

Continuing claims have now strung together the three largest increases since May 2020.

What Bloomberg Economics Says...

“Combined with the robust November jobs report, the latest claims data reinforce that it’ll be a slow process to restore the balance between supply and demand in the labor market.”

— Eliza Winger, economist

To read the full note, click here

Other data point to what’s still a largely tight labor market, marked by robust job creation and rising wages, while other sectors have been struggling under the Federal Reserve’s aggressive interest-rate hikes. However, layoffs are rising in banking and technology, and some industries like retail cut staff last month.

On an unadjusted basis, initial claims rose by the most since the start of the year to 286,436 last week. California, New York and Texas posted the biggest increases.

--With assistance from Jordan Yadoo and Reade Pickert.

(Adds Bloomberg Economics comment)

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